Living in Two Worlds: The American Indian Experience (American Indian Traditions)

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Contents

  1. American Indian culture of the West (article) | Khan Academy
  2. Living in Two Worlds: The American Indian Experience
  3. Social Challenges
  4. Sovereignty “held in trust”
  5. Living in Two Worlds : The American Indian Experience

He seemed to being trying to place me. I checked my rearview mirror several times on the way to the freeway. Dressing with Indian elements was viewed as a caricature, as if I were wearing a costume rather than expressing ethnic pride. In the workplace my ethnic clothing and jewelry were met with raised eyebrows. I got the distinct impression I needed to dress more conservatively, to fit in better.

And I did. I tried to look as white as possible. I cut my long brown hair very short. Decades later, I finally took a break from working as a result of too much travel and burnout.

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American Indian culture of the West (article) | Khan Academy

I made a concerted effort after that to take regular road trips to the reservation with my daughters so they could meet their relatives and taste the wonderful, rich culture. I wanted them to feel a part of the reservation even though they are assimilated. Born and raised off the reservation, never taught my Native language and existing more or less comfortably within the dominant culture.

In spite of my Navajo grandparents having to give up their children to the government-run boarding schools to have the Indian removed from each child, our extended family miraculously retained its culture. My grandparents plotted to hide half their children from the Bureau of Indian Affairs kidnappers in the deep canyons of Inscription House on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona. Those kids did not learn English and they kept to the traditional lifestyle of living in hogans without electricity or plumbed water.

He passed on his hathalie healing and spiritual knowledge to his eldest son Robert. I became very close with my Uncle Robert in his last few years. In , thousands of Navajo were forcefully removed from their lands and force-marched almost miles away to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. Fortunately, the tribe was able to return four years later, but it was devastated by the trauma of incarceration. Our family was lucky. They were able to hide deep in the canyons and high on top of Navajo Mountain.

They did not go on The Long Walk. But it was still difficult for them to endure this wartime atmosphere and recover from it. In order for the Navajo to return to their lands they had to sign a treaty with many demands. One was that all the children would be given up to the government boarding schools to be assimilated.

That led to the boarding school experience my mother survived. She visited her family on vacations and she remained steeped in the culture. She maintained fluency in the language. She took us along for several weeks every summer to herd sheep, enjoy the wonderful food, play with our cousins and live in the traditional style. We watched shi cheii perform ceremonies.

I treasured every moment on the Rez. However, years earlier when my mom was at boarding school, she was advised to marry a white man and not teach her children the Navajo language. She was told this would raise her out of poverty and not hold her children back from advancing in the white world. It was curious that with such a strong cultural background that my mom followed this terrible advice.

I think it points to how forceful the directives were from the government and how much of a survival instinct my mom had. I admire non-English speakers who immerse their children in their mother tongue. As a result, as adults they can communicate more broadly and understand other cultures in ways monolingual people cannot. Sadly, neither I nor my siblings are fluent in Navajo, a result of the government assimilation policy and a compliant Indian woman who took the path of least resistance in her struggle to get by, to fit in.

I pay a price for not knowing the language when I visit my relatives on the Rez. I have to patiently wait for someone to translate for me. And then the talk forges on while I sit in the dark. The same cousin later laughed when I tried to pronounce a word in Navajo. So here I was, again in the same situation I dreaded in the white world. Not fully accepted in either world. Half breed. But my uncle Robert, who usually sat quietly and merely observed, slowly started to speak, in Navajo.

He spoke a long time with many hand gestures indicating distance, of travel. When he finished, this cousin, his son, sat silent. Everyone sat silent. When I realized no one was going to fill me in without prompting I asked what had just been said. My cousin Judy said that Uncle Robert had told his son that I was not an outsider. He had described the story of how I found him and reunited him with my mother, his sister he had not seen for 30 years.

Uncle Robert told his son I was blood and that I should be included. His son stood down and sat quietly the rest of the visit. So in both worlds, there are inclusive people and exclusive people. Fortunately for my mental health there were many more nice people than mean ones. But the adverse experiences take a toll, especially on a young heart and mind.

On May 8, , on a fruitless search for gold and other riches, the thief, slaver and conquistador Hernando de Soto reached the Mississippi River somewhere south of present-day Memphis, Tenn. About a month later, having built crude boats, he and the remaining men of the expedition that had begun in Florida two years before managed to evade the patrols of Indian war canoes and become the first-known Europeans to cross the great river.

From there, they wound through what are now Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. In a year, de Soto would be dead. Another Spaniard took his place and continued the expedition. But the Spaniards had lost more than half their number, including their translator, a slave whose death made communication difficult with the Indians they encountered everywhere they went. They were harried by warriors constantly. They could not find enough food after having consumed most of their horses and all of the pigs they had brought with them except for those that escaped to form the ancestors of the razorback population of wild hogs now prevalent throughout the South.

Most of all they could find no gold or silver. It was decided to pack it in and head back to the Mississippi and eventually to Mexico City. When a further expedition into North America was announced there in , almost none of them signed on. Even in that era, de Soto was considered a brutal man. He gained a reputation for loyalty and cleverness in the conquest of Central America and became wealthy in the Indian slave trade. He was made governor of Cuba and gained estates in Nicaragua and Guatemala worked by Indian slaves.

But he longed for greater success and finally was sent on his own expedition to Yucatan in to hunt for a passage to China, the quest that Spain had been on for four decades. He did not succeed. But in joined Francisco Pizarro for the conquest of Peru. From the loot of that slaughter, de Soto became fabulously wealthy and returned to Spain, married well beyond his social station to a relative of someone close to the queen and seemed set for life.

But he was soon restless and champing at the bit for another adventure and more gold. And, according to what we know now, that was when the fate of the Mississippian culture of the Southeast was sealed. They won the battle and burned Mabila. But it was a Pyrhhic victory. They were spreading disease, too.


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The populace in towns and forts throughout the region was dense and diverse, agriculture abundant, culture sophisticated. The next time Europeans would encounter the region, it was depopulated, having been wiped out by the germs the Spaniards brought with them. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people who had never seen a European lost their lives to them as smallpox and other diseases against which they had no immunity took out as much as 90 percent of village after village. That kind of plague destroys more than people.

It obliterates entire societies, which is exactly what happened. Because de Soto had assured the Indians he was an immortal deity related to the sun, when he died of fever on May 21, , his men weighed his body down with sand and secretly deep-sixed him in the Mississippi. They had no title to the land and feared they would lose their de facto control of it under the new arrangement.

They were led by Louis Riel. Ottawa was not listening. They established their own newspaper, New Nation. After several months of negotiation with Ottawa and much internal wrangling, an agreement was reached allowing the Manitoba Act to be passed, bringing that province into the Canadian Confederation. The provisional government had arrested people who resisted its authority and executed one of them, Thomas Scott. The killing meant there would be no amnesty for leadrs of the provisional government. When military force was sent from Canada to enforce federal law, Riel fled to the United States.

The rebellion ended. But a complicated dance took place over the next few years as Riel won election in Manitoba but could not take his seat in parliament for lack of amnesty. Ultimately, in , he was given amnesty but only if he agreed to remain in exile in New York for the next five years.

During that time, his already strong religious obsession took such fierce hold of him that he was given to outbursts of irrational behavior and speech that he was finally committed for some time to an asylum. With the buffalo herds rapidly dwindling from the U. In early , emissaries were sent to Ottawa to work out some arrangement. Instead, more troops of the North-West Mounted Police were sent and rumor had it, wrongly, that still more would come. Once again, a provisional government was established, this time for Saskatchewan and once again led by Riel, now back in Canada and recovered from his mental aberrations.

In March, a militia of the provisional government clashed with mounted police they encountered by accident while on patrol, a battle ensued, and the militia won. They were joined by other First Nations. Some hit-and-run battles were won, but Riel chose to concentrate his forces in Batoche, and after a three-day battle it became clear all was lost. Riel surrendered and was incarcerated. After a trial for treason, he was hanged in November As we reported previously, Lightning Medicine Cloud, the all-white yearling buffalo, was slain and skinned April 30 on the Texas ranch where he was born in a thunderstorm.

There is no penalty for killing a buffalo in the state of Texas.

Living in Two Worlds: The American Indian Experience

If you kill a horse, you get hung. If you kill a buffalo, nothing happens. So some people around here would like to see this classified as a hate crime, which would make it a federal crime. These are the rarest animals in the world. The year-old is blind. He spent two weeks in recovery at the hospital. Tribal police investigated and took their own photos. They sent copies to Rapid City police. They investigated but filed no charges. Harry Smiskin, the chairman of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation wrote a scathing letter regarding the incident.

It reads, in part:. As a former tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer, I am particularly disturbed by what has not taken place in the aftermath of the assault upon Mr. In particular, the United States seems to ignore the trust responsibility it owes Mr. Traversie as a Sioux Indian. Like the assault itself, this federal and state inaction is grossly unjust. Our Lakota Brother was viciously violated because he cannot see. This simply would not have happened to an Anglo American elder or an affluent patient, or to any non-Indian person with sight.

Based on Mr. Again, I have been told that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have been formally notified of the attack, but have failed to investigate the crime, obtain a search warrant, or apprehend any suspects. This inaction, too, stands as a clear violation of Mr. Were Mr. Traversie an Anglo American, we can be sure that federal and state law enforcement would not have handled the referral from the Cheyenne River Police with such disregard.

Anything less would be a violation of the trust responsibility that the United States owes to Mr. Samuel Tso, 89, of Lukachukai, Ariz. The Code Talkers have brought great pride to our Nation and the loss of Samuel Tso saddens not only myself, his loss saddens the Navajo Nation. On behalf of the First Lady, the Vice President, and the Navajo people, we offer our prayers, condolences and words of encouragement to the Tso family.

Samuel Tso was a true Navajo warrior. Tso enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17 by claiming to be 21 years old. This resistance by the Pueblos and some other indigenous peoples has probably been strengthened because the initial proponents of native language literacy were missionaries who used reading and writing to more quickly introduce Indians to the Bible, catechisms, hymns, and other materials in their own language in order to hasten assimilation and conversion to Christianity. A recent in-depth small scale study of six Ute children transitioning between a Ute Reservation Head Start classroom and a town kindergarten classroom, Cheryl Clay found that the students suffered "academic disorientation" because of the differences between the two p.

She concluded, The cultural discontinuity between Head Start and kindergarten disrupted the reciprocal use of oral language with peers and adults in kindergarten. This disruption is consistent with lower oral language facility and lower reading and written language skills than expected based on developmental tests. Without peer social relationships at the beginning of kindergarten, Native American children look to their teachers for social interaction partners. These interaction patterns were simpler and less stimulating for language development. Rather than being a negative personality trait, the apparent dependence of Native American children on their interactions with teachers could be viewed as an intermediate step toward the development of reciprocal peer interactions.

Oppositional Identities and Cross-cultural Healing John Ogbu finds evidence that for American Indians and other groups that he classifies as "involuntary minorities," school learning tends to be equated with the learning of the culture and language of white Americans. In other words, learning the cultural and language frames of reference of their "enemy" or "oppressors" p. According to Ogbu , minority status is determined by power relationships that subordinate the minority group, that may or may not be a numerical minority, under a dominant group.

The reality, or even the perception, of continuous long term discrimination can lead to the development of an oppositional identity to the point where "what is depicted as the culture of native peoples represents the absolute opposite of what is though of as "Western" culture--it is the Whiteman's shadow " Simard, , p.

So if schools are for whites, they are not for Indians by definition. Mick Fedullo in his book Light of the Feather: Pathways Through Contemporary Indian America illustrates an extreme case of this cultural conflict with a quote from an Apache elder who stated that students' parents had, been to school in their day, and what that usually meant was a bad BIA boarding school. And all they remember about school is that there were all these Anglos trying to make them forget they were Apaches; trying to make them turn against their parents, telling them that Indian ways were evil.

Well, a lot of those kids came to believe that their teachers were the evil ones, and so anything that had to do with "education" was also evil--like books. Those kids came back to the reservation, got married, and had their own kids. And now they don't want anything to do with the white man's education. The only reason they send their kids to school is because it's the law. But they tell their kids not to take school seriously. So, to them, printed stuff is white-man stuff.

To a degree, she blames schools, as an arm of European-American colonialism, for the alcohol-related death of her Navajo father, In their childhoods both my father and my grandmother had been punished for speaking Navajo in school. Navajos were told by white educators that, in order to be successful, they would have to forget their language and culture and adopt American ways. They were warned that if they taught their children to speak Navajo, the children would have a harder time learning in school, and would therefore be at a disadvantage.

A racist attitude existed. Navajo children were told that their culture and lifeways were inferior, and they were made to feel they could never be as good as white people. This pressure to assimilate, along with the physical, social, psychological, and economic destruction of the tribes following the Indian wars of the s combined to bring the Navajo people to their knees.

My father suffered terribly from these events and conditions. He had been a straight-A student and was sent away to one of the best prep schools in the state. He wanted to be like the rich white children who surround him there, but the differences were too apparent. Recent research on American Indian dropouts also illustrates how students give up on school because they do not perceive their teachers as caring and do not see that what they are learning as relevant to their lives.

Donna Deyhle quotes an American Indian student, The way I see it seems like the whites don't want to get involved with the Indians. They think we're bad. We drink. Our families drink. And the teachers don't want to help us. They say, "Oh, no, there is another Indian asking a question" because they don't understand.

So we stop asking questions. They didn't tell us nothing about careers or things to do after high school. They didn't encourage us to go to college. They just took care of the white students. They just wanted to get rid of the Indians. Tennant's goal was to make both teachers and students more aware of the cultural conflict they dealt with in their daily lives and to provide support for dealing in a healthy way with that conflict. Tennant's curriculum is an attempt to bridge the perception that Deyhle , p.

Given Deyhle's findings that students did not see education as relevant to their lives and did not trust teachers and that some openly hated "whites" and many exhibited dysfunctional behavior sometimes only from the school's point of view , more research needs to be done on what types of curriculum can help heal the damage done by the past history of Indian-white relations.

Social Challenges

As Deyhle and others point out, both the perception and reality of continued economic inequalities and racism both within and bordering the Indian communities must be attacked and corrected in order to build trust and diminish the oppositional behavior in students that hurts their academic achievement.

Community Control and Indiginization Daniel McLaughlin in When Literacy Empowers: Navajo Language in Print provides an in-depth critical ethnography of literacy in a Navajo community and its community-controlled school based on observations done over two years. Unlike the Pueblo school that Peshkin studied, this Navajo school taught and maintained Navajo literacy in grades K McLaughlin argues that the "indiginization" of the community's Lutheran church and community school through the use of Navajo literacy that he observed allowed those institutions to become less alien and allowed Navajos to take on important power roles in them.

He found that "self-determination and self-understanding suffuse vernacular literacy practices at the church and the school" p. He concluded that, To reverse the wide-spread pattern of educational failure, Navajo educators need to reinforce the cultural identities of the students, structure the active collaboration of parents, integrate standard and vernacular varieties of cognitively complex language into all aspects of classroom life, and locate the source of students' difficulties in structural conditions of society rather than in innate processing deficits of the children.

McLaughlin quotes from a letter by a Navajo graduate of the community's school, No matter how much we know the English language, we are still going to be intimidated because of our ethnic background. No matter how much you try, your color is never going to change. You are going to have to deal with what comes along with your color. You will have to be strong! Not with muscles, but with mental and emotional strength. We cannot let others decide for us anymore. They know what they want--not what we need" pp. McLaughlin notes that "an immediate effect of Navajo instruction has been to place Navajos in positions of academic authority" , pp.

In control of their own schools, Navajos could expand the environments for Navajo literacy, including requiring high school graduation speeches to be written and presented in both Navajo and English. While English was used in the community to interact with the off-reservation society, Navajo, including reading and writing, was used for personal fulfillment. The teaching of Navajo language and culture in the school helped bridge the gap between the community and the otherwise "white" school that is so evident in Peshkin's study.

While the community that McLaughlin studied was fairly supportive of Navajo literacy instruction and the Navajo tribe mandated Navajo instruction in all reservation schools in , there is still some ambivalence among Navajos about having their language, history, and culture taught in schools based on past experience Batchelder, However, as indigenous peoples take more control over their schools, they tend to want those schools to reflect their communities more.

Ten essays collected by Stephen May a focus on how indigenous peoples worldwide are working to take control schools in their communities in order to end assimilationist schooling that denies the value of their languages and cultures and so indigenous learners can in the words of David Corson , p.

May b discusses the differences between nation state political democracy and what Joshua Fishman has termed "cultural democracy. May points to the "phenomenal success" of the Maori "language nests" in New Zealand as a model for indigenous community-based education.


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These grass roots efforts that immerse Maori students in their language and culture have expanded over the last two decades from their pre-school base through elementary and secondary education into Maori language university-level teacher-education programs. Arohia Durie of the Department of Maori and Multicultural Education of Massey University College of Education describes how Maori efforts have changed education from a " subordinating " to an "empowering" process, and she describes assimilationist education as education for "cultural surrender.

Teresa L. McCarty and Lucille J. As community efforts, community-based education is generally well received locally by community members, especially parents and students. Small, often isolated, groups of indigenous peoples such as McCarty and Watahomigie describe are at a disadvantage when attempting to wrest control of educational institutions from populous and powerful dominant groups. However, the contributors to May's a book document how these indigenous groups can learn from each other and work together.

Their cooperation can give them the strength needed to persevere in their quest for culturally and linguistically appropriate education for their children. Catherine Matthews and Walter Smith carried out a ten-week experimental study. One group of Indian students in grades in nine Bureau of Indian Affairs schools received 33 hours of instruction with Native American related teaching materials that included Native American related science materials and profiles of Native Americans who use science in their daily lives.

The control group received science instruction without Native American related content. Matthews and Smith concluded from their study that "Native American related materials seem to have a positive effect on the attitude and achievement of Native American elementary school students, although the mechanism of that effect remains unclear" p.

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society AISES promotes culturally relevant science instruction for American Indian students and works to provide mentors for students interested in studying science and mathematics. Their efforts appear to be successful, but more well designed research could add valuable insight into what type of activities lead to students embarking on science and mathematics careers. Community Attitudes towards Schooling While some researchers such as Peshkin find evidence of ambivalent support for schools by Native community members, there is a body of support for education in Indian country.

Havighurst The study found "mild approval of schools and teachers by Indian students with some differences between communities" p. The study found a malaise similar to what Peshkin found in the high school he studied, With some important exceptions, it appears that Indian pupils do not become enthusiastic about their schooling. They do not appear to exert themselves or feel that school achievement is very important to them. However, they are not hostile to school.

They generally speak of their school and their teachers favorably. Of parents out of who were generally favorable towards schools, their most common suggestion was "that the schools should pay more attention to the Indian heritage" , p. In the National Study community leaders from across the country were interviewed, and "in general, it was found that the community leaders were more critical of schools serving Indians than were the Indian students and parents" , pp.

However, they were overwhelmingly in favor of having the school's prepare students to "participate in modern society. While this would tend to be a skewed sample representing activist community members by virtue of their attending a national conference, this study is useful in determining the thinking of community leadership. The researchers found, the parents and community members vitally concerned and vocal. They considered themselves extremely important in the education of their children.

They felt strongly aware of curricular and methodological issues, and strongly disagreed with many of those elements in public and Bureau or boarding schools. On the whole, they perceived a great deal of ignorance about and disrespect for themselves, their children, their communities and their cultures from the public and Bureau or boarding schools.

Sovereignty “held in trust”

In fact, the sentiment against the BIA boarding schools was so strong, that narrative comments went beyond commentary about schools not knowing or caring about Indian people, but cautioned that BIA schools actually hurt the children. In contrast, parents and community members were satisfied or very satisfied with tribally controlled schools' treatment, involvement, and expectations for them and their children. American Indian and Alaska Native Students Radda, Iwamoto, and Patrick surveyed 1, students in grades 5 through 12 attending an urban public school district, including 81 American Indian students.

Their study reinforced much of the common thinking about Indian education. The Indian students "reported that they were retained at a rate three times higher than reported by non-Indian students" p. External rewards, "tokens," were less important for students who thought positively about completing high school. American Indian "students indicated a preference for learning in collaborative groups designed to benefit the group rather than participation in competitive activities designed to promote individual achievement. There is a disconnection between the intention to complete school and the common perception that it will affect ability to work or get a job.

This suggests, as does other data in the study, that the relevance of completing school in relation to employment and type of employment is lacking. These results support the importance of school being personally relevant to the student, the impact the parents can have in reinforcing that relevance, and the work teachers can do to connect schoolwork to the student's life. Donna Deyhle in a seven year study of Navajo and Ute students found that they "complained bitterly that their teachers did not care about them or help them in school" , p. In the study "a little less than half of the Navajo and almost two-thirds of the Ute [students] felt school was not important for what they wanted to do in life" , p.

Students who "experienced minimal individual attention or personal contact with their teachers" interpreted this neglect as "teacher dislike and rejection" , p. Indian students "spoke of the boredom of remedial classes, the repetition of the same exercises and uninteresting subjects" , p. Both Deyhle's , study and the Navajo Dropout Study Brandt, found that Navajo students gave "boredom" as their major reason for dropping out.

Deyhle found that Navajo students perceived school as a cold and unrewarding place with an irrelevant curriculum and uncaring teachers. High school students typically had instruction that involved being told to read the textbook and answer the questions at the end of the chapter. Because the Navajo and Ute students read on average two grade levels behind their non-Indian peers, such textbook oriented teaching was especially problematic. In a study of the perceptions of American Indian women, Bowker found that two-thirds "spoke about the humiliation of growing up poor, inadequate food, inappropriate clothes, and unsympathetic, uncaring teachers who were quick to make judgments about them based upon stereotypical racial traits, than on the factors of poverty" p.

Bowker found that "over 90 percent of the women in this study reported having had experiences with racism, both on and off the reservation. Most of their on-reservation experiences came from teachers" and that this racism sometimes led to dropping out of school , p. Over 70 percent of the women studied "reported that peers had influenced them to stay in school and graduate" , p.

Nearly half the women in Bowker's study reported being abused as children. David Lester reviewed research on American Indian suicide. Some of the factors cited in research on suicide, such as family and community breakdown, also severely effect youth who do not commit suicide. Lester found that suicide rates varied tremendously between tribes and reservations and that groups that were able to keep more of their traditional culture tended to have lower suicide rates.

Of particular interest in regard to the topic of this paper is the fact that young males age 15 to 24 have an above average suicide rate that is strongly linked to alcohol abuse and that this suicide rate is increasing. He found that "most commentators believe that the oppressed status of American Indians and the clash of modern American culture with traditional American Indian culture are both important contributors to the causation of American Indian suicide" p. However, he points out that research is lacking to fully back up this belief. Swisher and Deyhle review the literature on how Indian children "learn to learn" at home and discuss the problems that can arise when teachers have different expectations about how children learn.

Books overviewing the research on American Indian education Reyhner, a; Rhodes, ; Gilliland, promote activity-based instruction for American Indian students. Some recent studies back up this recommendation.

For example Thomas Zwick and Kenneth Miller did an experimental study of two fourth grade science classrooms with mixed Crow Indian and non-Indian enrollment. In the control classroom the students were taught typical classroom-based textbook science while the experimental group received hands-on outdoor science activities with the teacher receiving inservice training supported by the Eisenhower Grant Program. The experimental class had greater gains than the control class on the CAT 85, and the American Indian students accounted for most of those gains.

Sharon Nelson-Barber and Elise Trumbull Estrin reviewed research on teaching mathematics and science in general and to Native students in particular in their monograph titled Culturally Responsive Mathematics and Science Education for Native Students. They take a "constuctivist view of learners, one that recognizes students as active meaning-makers" that is "complemented with a sociocultural perspective that recognizes the importance of social and cultural systems and their associated values and expectations on students' learning" p. Nelson-Barber and Estrin cite several examples of sociocultural difference between traditional cultures and America's modern school culture.

Children for their own safety are taught to obey elders who know the dangers and, in the words of Terry Tafoya, to "watch and listen and wait, and the answer will come to you" as quoted on p. A second example of difference is that with traditional learning in an oral storytelling culture "children are expected to make their own sense of story" rather than to ask questions about the story or to be told what the story means. A third example is about how different cultures can categorize things differently. Given objects from four categories: food, clothing, tools, and cooking utensils, the respondents from a non-mainstream culture made groupings like a knife with an orange because a knife is used to cut up an orange.

Just as ways of learning can differ from culture to culture, discipline can be handled differently as well. For example adults might ignore children's behavior according to Scollon and Scollon to "ward off threats to their authority" that could force them into continued conflict with a child p. Based on their research review, Nelson-Barber and Estrin recommended using ethnomathematics and ethnoscience teaching approaches that relate math and science to culture.

These approaches are seen by some educators "as the sources of real-world connections that will make classroom theories and procedures meaningful" p. A chemistry teacher on the Navajo Reservation told me how he rethought the way he taught chemistry when one of his best Navajo students asked him "Why are we learning chemistry? As Nelson-Barber and Estrin state, "Learning about nature from books can seem a poor substitute for the real thing" p.

They suggest that teachers start with "students' lived experiences" and move first to ethno-mathematical knowledge and intuitive understanding, then to technical symbolic representation, and finally to axiomatic knowledge with the idea these can be related back to the students' lived experiences. They further state "In our vision of the classroom, students would learn how to represent and solve problems and to conduct investigations related to their own interests and past experiences, with one goal being to learn the formalized language and procedures of academic mathematics and science as well" p.

This fits with constructivist learning theory that speaks to students' needing to link new knowledge to their existing knowledge and experience base. However, in their conclusion Nelson-Barber and Estrin warn that the connection between math, science, and culture can be trivialized and that one of the key functions of teachers is to awaken students interest and curiosity in a subject and thus motivate them to want to learn the subject matter at hand.

The authors conclude "for Native people who are sorely underrepresented in fields dependent on mathematics and science, there is a tremendous need for teachers who will enlist them to become explorers, who creatively develop their understanding, as well as for teachers who create connections among science, mathematics, technology and society p. Not only are learning and behavior not culture-free, so also Nelson-Barber and Estrin document that science and mathematics are not culture free. Europeans have taken knowledge accumulated from around the world without giving credit to its discoverers.

According to the authors "western thinking, in general, tends toward decontextualizing, depersonalizing, and dehumanizing experience and natural phenomena" p. Western thought "objectifies" reality rather than emphasizing process. One can see that in the current "Standards Movement" that calls for outcome based assessment and tends to ignore whether the classroom processes needed to achieve those outcomes are humanistic. People jump onto the direct instruction bandwagon as the quickest way to achieve outcomes without considering the effects of direct instruction on classroom climate and student motivation.

A current example of this is the promotion of Robert Slavin's "Success for All" Program in high poverty schools, including those serving Native students. Babies don't develop oppositional identities to sleeping on their stomach, and it does not matter much whether they are motivated or not. In regard to the topic of this paper, it is critical that general research findings and packaged instructional programs be tested independently on American Indian students to see if they are really applicable to them.

Compared to the studies on low achievement, relatively few studies have looked at successful Indian students. Judith Davis did one interesting case study of ten Crow, Northern Cheyenne, and Blackfeet college graduates. She found contrary to typical expectations that they were, not from stable, financially comfortable, well-educated families Only two were considered 'good students' by their teachers while in high school.

Their high school grade point averages were not predictive of future success The majority of these graduates succeeded without the support of the elementary and secondary school system or their individual teachers. Family involvement in the school system, or even one member of the extended family who works in the school system as a teacher, teacher-aide or counselor, becomes an example to many people on the reservation.

Five of the successful student had educators as role models. The graduates' families encouraged these students in whatever they chose to do. Inexperienced teachers and teachers faced with new situations need time to learn and adjust, and the high rates of teacher turnover in reservation schools contributes to educational problems in these schools. In addition, staff turnover creates a loss of institutional memory that can help maintain successful teaching practices and prevent the repetition of past mistakes. A similar problem exists with reservation school administrators.

One new teacher told Plank, "They hired me over the phone you know. I looked good on paper. I didn't know they didn't speak English too much and had to learn a different language. I didn't know it was a boarding school and that was a surprise" as quoted in Plank, , pp. Cleary and Peacock interviewed over 60 Indian and non-Indian teachers of Native American students working on or near nine Indian reservations located across the U.

The authors share insights on how the teachers they interviewed adapted the way they teach to meet the challenges of teaching American Indian students. These teachers reported that teaching styles coming from American mainstream society often fail to meet the needs of American Indian students. One non-Indian teacher stated, "We're basically bussing them into a white school, teaching them all of our history and our language and our culture, and then tossing them back out and expecting them to get a job and conform and be exactly like us" p.

In a case study Bielenberg found that even in an urban charter school set up to meet the needs of Indian students, an Indian teacher can continue to use mainstream instructional methodologies patterned after how she was taught in school. Cleary and Peacock identified suboppression--the continuing tragedy of internalized oppression--as adversely affecting students who struggle with identity issues, self confidence, and self destruction. Oppression can delay adolescence, increase absenteeism, and lead to anger, hopelessness, fear of success, passive aggressive behaviors, low self-esteem, and self-destruction.

These all work against the efforts of dedicated teachers trying to create conditions for these students to empower themselves. They concluded that Indian students struggle to find balance and harmony in schools that do not incorporate Indian cultural values. As indicated previously by Peshkin , the past tragedy of students forced to leave their traditional lifeways to go to Bureau of Indian Affairs schools in order to become assimilated remains part of current memory and affects both parents' willingness to support schools and the attitude they display towards education in front of their children.

Based on their study, Cleary and Peacock describe ways to make the experience of living in two worlds less destructive and how to build bridges between Indian and non-Indian worlds. Their interviewees discussed the importance of native teachers being role models and the need for sharing with their students how they achieved success in schools. The teachers also stressed the importance of their participating in the community where they work to get to know parents.

By knowing the environments from which their students come each morning, teachers can make a conscious effort to teach to the needs of their students. Teachers reported that some native students may not be interested in their own traditional culture, having grown up away from the more traditional teachings of their tribes. Cleary and Peacock conclude from their interviews and research review that these students need to be understood and inspired to develop their own sense of purpose and worth.

Based on their interviews, Cleary and Peacock recommend group work with lots of dialogue in contrast to competitive classroom strategies. Because competence and self-assurance are vital issues with many native students, it is important to remove the pressure to perform and be singled out spotlighted from those students who do not relate to such an approach. This does not mean that all native students are going to conform to this profile, but that those who would be threatened by such an approach would be relieved by such an option.

"Crawford Bros. Band: Living In Two Worlds" (2016)

In addition, the authors note that, People from oral traditions contextualize their articulation of thought; they depend on shared knowledge of the people who will be listening to them and do not necessarily articulate what others already know. People from literate traditions tend to decontextualize thought, to add the context that a distant audience will need to make sense of speech or writing. Title VII Bilingual and other bicultural teacher training programs, such as the University of Alaska's Cross-Cultural Education Development X-CED Program founded a quarter century ago, have increased the number of minority teachers, but they sometimes send them out into a hostile school environment.

Jerry Lipka, Gerald Mohatt, and the Ciulistet Group describe a field-based teacher-training program for Alaska Native teachers, the problems faced by these new teachers in schools, and the solution they found through an indigenous support group called the Ciulistet. The X-CED Program is a field-based teacher training program for Native Alaskans that has helped increase the number of indigenous teachers in Native Alaskan villages from less than one percent to 25 percent since its beginning.

Living in Two Worlds : The American Indian Experience

However, graduates of the program often felt not accepted by mainstream teachers and school administrators because of the alternative nature of their teacher-training program and by their communities because being a teacher was identified with being an outsider. As Yu'pik teachers began to enter the school systems "they were both welcomed and treated as objects of suspicion" p.

For the village community, a new Yup'ik teacher "should not act white, but if she acted as herself Yup'ik , she was not considered a 'real teacher,' or not as good as the White teachers" p. Thus, new Yup'ik teachers "struggled with doubts about their effectiveness as teachers and about their ability to be of service to their communities" p.

Yup'ik teachers rejected the profuse "bubbly" praise promoted by outside teachers because traditional Yup'iks believed "overly praising will ruin a person" p. Yup'ik teachers also wanted to provide their students with greater comprehensible input, both in terms of language and content, based on Yup'ik culture rather than to continue to use the decontexualized curriculum from the dominant culture that pervaded Alaskan village schools.

Yup'ik "children in the village were raised to be self-reliant and have a great deal of responsibility;" however, "in school, they learned to look upon the teacher as an authority figure who tells them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Yup'ik teachers emphasized "establishing a strong personal relationship with students," in contrast to the outsiders' ideas that "good teachers" were teachers who had the "ability to impart content knowledge," content designed to replace the Yup'ik language and traditional cultural knowledge and values p.

Thus the growing number of Yup'ik teachers were faced with cultural conflicts just as their students were. The formation of a group of all the certified Yup'ik teachers in , which became known as the Ciulistet grew into a general support group for Yup'ik teachers and has expanded over time to include village elders.

This support is needed because "Yup'ik culture conflicts powerfully with cherished values associated with mainstream schooling and society" p. Mainstream schooling emphasizes "abstract learning decontextualized from personal experience and organized into chunks to fit prescribed time, spaces, and places of learning" while Yup'iks' desire "knowledge validated through personal experience--typically related to subsistence off the land" p. According to Lipka et al. In the NEE model a teacher repeatedly calls on individual students in their classroom and asks them questions that the teacher already know the answer to, and then the teacher tells the whole class whether a student has answered correctly.

This teaching model "spotlights" individual students in a way that is contrary to traditional Yup'ik child rearing practices. Various "rigid" programs that have been designed for minority children--such as DISTAR, Madeline Hunter's version of Direct Instruction, and Success for All that tend to turn both students and teachers into robots following a script--were disliked by Yup'ik teachers because the programs forced teachers to rush through lessons and did not allow them flexibility.

Yup'ik teachers wanted to treat their students like a family rather than as objects for drill and practice. While schools are a meeting place between the two cultures, neither are monolithic entities. Yup'ik teachers called for "more content that related to the children's environment and culture so they could learn rapidly" p.

The Ciulistet teachers have found that the rich Yup'ik "oral tradition, rich in its explanations of the relationships among people and between people and the environment, offers teachers numerous possibilities for developing oral and written literacy" p. Ciulistet teachers also developed culturally appropriate mathematics and science curriculum. This culturally compatible curriculum built mathematical and science concepts on the prior knowledge that students brought to the classroom from their village, including their fluency in the Yup'ik language.

The "culturally negotiated curriculum" that Lipka et al. It is not something that can be mandated from any state or national capital. It is a curriculum that parents and students must buy into. They think this intervention will help end the persistent school failure of Native students. However more needs to be done to examine how closely the reality of self-determination has matched its rhetoric. For example, Guy Senese in a study of self-determination found that Rough Rock Demonstration School now Rough Rock Community School , the first Indian community-controlled school in modern times was "an institution of great vision and promise, but frequently unfulfilled ambition" p.

Ironically Senese found that in the s when the Rough Rock school was founded, the Ford Foundation's Fund for the Republic viewed "the program of encouraging Indian culture was presented as a technique which would work toward eventual assimilation" p. From his study of government documents, Senese concluded that the goal set by the U.

He concluded that "cultural and linguistic assimilation proceeds apace in the schools? Lomawaima also questions whether the Self-Determination Act of and the subsequent tribal school movement has really restored self-control and sovereignty to tribes in the arena of education or only its illusion. Because of the poor performance of Native students in schools controlled by non-Indians, it has been generally assumed that with greater local control schools would be more responsive to the special needs of Native communities and Native students.

However, as in other areas of Indian education, there is very limited research that supports the hypothesis that greater local control improves education. Willeto drew a random sample of high school students from 11 schools representing public, private, BIA funded, and BIA operated schools.

She found "there were no significant relationships between type of school and Navajo youths' academic success" p. American Indians and Alaska Natives have been more than just victims of this oppression and have been establishing more local control of public, tribal, and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.

Numéros en texte intégral

However, this local control is being threatened by both the "Standards Movement" that seeks to control what is being taught through high stakes testing mandated at the state or national level and by the passage of anti-bilingual education initiatives such as California's Proposition passed in and Arizona's Proposition in that effectively hamper the use of minority languages in public schools. Studies reviewed here indicate that if this assimilationist approach is persisted in, some children and their families may well continue to reject schooling while other children can become lost between their families and the demands of the school.

Texas has been recently spotlighted as an example of the success of using high states testing to improve the quality of public education. However, more research needs to be done, especially with regard to minorities, on the impact of retaining students in grade who fail to meet what many consider to be arbitrary achievement standards.

Dropout research generally confirms that the more students are retained, the more likely they are to drop out of school Reyhner, b. Once students in academic difficulty drop out, average test scores rise because there are fewer lower test scores to bring them down, but is this real improvement? Haney, Deyhle and Swisher also note that little research has been done on the impact of Indian teachers teaching Indian students and that "cultural relevance is rarely defined and almost always assume to be significant.

This exclusive focus on culture and curricular innovation draws attention from the very real possibility that economics and social structure may be more important" p. Research needs in Indian education include longitudinal studies of students following them through their school years and for "thick" ethnographic studies of how Native and non-Native teachers teach and the school environment they work in.

Currently the best way to teach children is being debated across the country with impassioned arguments being given supporting various approaches such as phonics reading instruction, whole language reading instruction, back to the basics curriculum, multicultural curriculum, English immersion, and bilingual instruction.

While these approaches are not always contradictory, they often are. In addition, researchers such as Jim Cummins , , discuss "experiential interactive" teaching methodologies as most appropriate for minorities versus the textbook-oriented "transmission" direct instruction approaches that Deyhle and others have found predominating and failing in classrooms with Indian students. It cannot be assumed that approaches that work for other groups will work for American Indians and Alaska Native students without careful testing.

And it cannot be assumed that approaches that produce short term initial gains in student achievement, such as has been found for DISTAR and Success for All will produce long term gains without longitudinal studies. The last well-funded comprehensive study of American Indian education was Havighurst's national study completed in There is no question that 30 years later, a new organized and well-planned study or series of coordinated studies needs to be done. One only needs to look at the well funded private study of the schooling of Native Hawaiian students by the Bishop Estate and Kamehameha Schools to see what can be accomplished with adequate funding, a minimum of preconceived biases going in, and a good research plan.

The results of the Kamehameha Early Education Program Project KEEP have been disseminated in numerous articles and are featured in almost every textbook on bilingual education and or teaching English as a second language see e. The KEEP results are also reported in many mainstream textbooks.